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Kinani Festival: Reflections on the opportunities and challenges facing the dance sector in Africa

On the occasion of the 10th edition of the Kinani Festival, which also served as the backdrop for the Biennale of Dance in Africa, the EU’s ProCultura and ACP-EU Culture programmes jointly organised a panel discussion entitled “Dancing in Africa: international mobility, training and partnerships”. This event – attended by five artists benefiting from the two programmes – provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing professionals in the dance sector on the African continent.

The first part of the panel explored various facets of dance. Beyond its role as entertainment and artistic expression, dance is also a therapeutic tool, a vehicle for transmitting culture and knowledge, and a powerful tool for education, social rehabilitation and political advocacy.

In their respective countries, the contributors use dance as part of community projects. This is particularly true of Khoudia Touré, choreographer and founder of the Magg’Ando association, which has developed a social rehabilitation project co-funded by the ACP-EU Culture Programme. She explains: “Through my organisation, Magg’Ando, we regularly work in prisons, teaching dance to inmates and helping them to create shows within the prisons. In a second phase of the project, we are also working with professional dancers to initiate and train an older generation of women. Our aim is to create a synergy between these two projects: to offer disadvantaged communities access to dance and to demonstrate the power of dance, while strengthening our members’ dance skills. This is the logic that guides our approach.”

In Zimbabwe, the Chenhaka Trust has set up a programme to professionalise dance artists, enabling them to achieve financial independence and optimise their artistic practice. “Chenhaka Trust’s mission is to respond to the needs of the sector and create an environment conducive to its development. Our current project focuses on building the capacity of dancers. It also aims to ensure that their rights are protected”, explains Taurai Moyo, the association’s founder.

A survey carried out at the start of the project identified the problems regularly faced by the sector. “The lack of professionalism, the absence of references for dancers’ salaries and fees in the sector, etc., are all problems that we want to resolve”, confides Taurai Moyo.

The emergence of professional networks

The professionalisation of the dance sector on the continent depends, among other things, on the existence of professional networks. In this respect, digital technologies offer new communication opportunities that have the potential to facilitate the creation of a virtual exchange space, initially.

“During the pandemic, we had the idea of creating a virtual network project, the Dance Network of the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries. As artists, we felt that despite the existence of a political and economic organisation between the Portuguese-speaking countries, there were still major cultural gaps, particularly in the field of dance. Despite certain complexities, I believe that the countries involved can create a more solid space, despite the economic inequalities, and take advantage of the common language as a point of communication and sharing of strategies, while getting to know our artistic practices better”, confides Djem Neguim, a Cape Verdean choreographer.

In terms of capacity-building, initiatives such as the ProCultura and ACP-EU Culture programmes fill certain needs. However, according to Djem Neguim, it is essential to design projects that take account of local realities and the concrete needs of cultural players. To date, many projects remain too generic and exclude players who have not had access to formal education.

The discussions ended on the crucial question of access to artistic residency programmes, in a context where the mobility of artists and access to funding remain major issues. While there are laudable initiatives to support artists’ mobility and facilitate access to residency programmes, it is important to note that access is often limited.

 

Photo credit: ©Festival Kinani

 

 

 

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